I was asked to evaluate a really cool IP_ Cam before XMass (not as sophisticated as the one shown). I got quite excited anticipating accessing it remotely over the web to watch ships sailing past Ap Lei Chau. It was great - I plugged it directly into my router, found the device ip address opened my browser and panned and zoomed ... The only problem was whilst the images were OK for watching inside my flat if I pointed it out the window and zoomed in on passing boats they turned into blobs - because it was digital not optical zoom.
When I tried to use my old webcam for comparison I discovered that it had become obsoleted by OS upgrades and was no longer compatible with my PC so this made look for a cheap (but good) replacement (at back of my mind was the idea of using it to watch the boats - overlooking the slight matter that I would also need a cheap PC)
I quickly realised (never having considered it before) that technically there are now 2 types of webcam.
True Plug&Play USB Video devices complient with the UVC standard adopted by Apple , Linux and Micosoft, which leverage genric drivers in the OS)
The rest (old tech) which require users to load non standard proprietary drivers and software etc
It then struck me that none of the portable Instant Messenger solutions support video presumably for the obvious reason that if you squat on a PC which does not comes with a webcam or has one which is not accessable to your portable IM software you essentially need to bring your own compatible plug&play webcam. (therefore support for IM video is a low priotity for most developers I think)
subsequently I discovered there is a killer usability issue to the entire concept. I got two portable software IM solutions working (Skype and iVisit) with a cheap Plug&Play webcam and dicovered that if you are in a library or similar venue you have to speak very softly which really defeats the object of the exercise - but it was fun making it work.
Exploiting my Phone's Camera
Along the way I tried to leverage my phone camera as a webcam (my phone is a Dopod 828 running Mobile Window 2003). I tried Web Camera Plus. This software requires you to install components on the PC which if you only have guest access rights is a killer. Pity but for that it worked really well !! Obviously if you have no webcam and you already have PPC phone with a camera it's cheaper to buy this software than a camera.Doesn't help me to watch boats remotely if it means leaving my phone at home.
A Chromatic Aberation
And just when I went to UK my faithful digital went belly up!! pictures either aquired a distinct rosy hue (which could be corrected in Photoshop) or turned into domething resembling an oil slick (which could not). Inevitably the camera was out of warranty and the cost to repair equivalent to replacement so I upgraded and replaced with a Panasonic DCM-Z18.
At Fortress in Central, Joey Tan like a true sales professional, did attempt to solicit requirements, offer alternatives and trade me up (and even down) . She quickly realised however that I had done prior research and knew that only 2 branches in HK held stock (1 camera at each site) so it was a done deal and she just needed to close. If I am truthful I haven't yet mastered the camera - I may have overeached myself !!
"Rosy" was in fact a replacement for a 2 month old identical Canon IXUS 400 camera which I 'hid" in a laundary basket, forgot about, and then took (with my laundary) to be washed. - It didn't take kindly to the abuse and I was accused by my partner of murdering it. It became an organ donor - the laundered battery and memory card which had survived the wash and spin dry, and all the accessories where recycled.
Pocket Video Camera
I came in for some stick about a pocket video camera bought a year ago and never used, so this was dusted off, powered up and played with. It is suprising easy to use - Pity I keep forgetting to take it with me and when I do I forget I have it
Next time i did sit on top at front !!
Which brings me back the dead and dying."Rosy" was about to be relegated to the bin when I realised I may be able to use it as a webcam if I had a PC. Now as it so happens there was a dead PC in my bin . An IBM X22 with crashed hard disk, dead battery and iffy power adaptor. For a mere pittance I have now replaced the hard disk, found a substitute power adapter and resurrected the PC as a Linux sandpit for my amusement, currently running XUBUNTU 8.04.
The intent when I get bored playing with Linux will be to set the PC and camera up to watch the boats go by .. watch this space
LINUX on a Stick
A spin off of setting up a linux play environment has been that I have revisited "bootable USB flsh drives using Linux". Things have come on since I last looked at this challenge and I now have a fully functional XUBUNTU powered stick with minimal applications (the rationale for using this distro was that it seems to have all drivers needed to run on most PCs that I come across) and I am great fun testing whether i can boot any PC I come across using it.
It's frightening how many do not have their BIOS locked down !!
Posted at 7/02/2008 02:42:00 am by David MiddleburghPermalink